Vela Bill Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Passes in the House of Representatives

WASHINGTON, DC – Today, the House of Representatives voted in favor of the bipartisan Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019, legislation introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives by Representative Filemon Vela.

The U.S. agriculture sector is crucial to the U.S. economy and generates more than $1 trillion in annual economic activity. Agricultural specialists at U.S. ports of entry intercept thousands of invasive pests and prevent the introduction of foreign animal diseases—such as African Swine Fever—into the United States, protecting U.S. natural resources and the U.S. economy. The Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019 authorizes U.S. Customs and Border Protection to hire 240 new Agriculture Specialists and 200 Agriculture Technicians until staffing shortages are resolved. It also provides for the assignment of 20 Agriculture Canine Teams to prevent the introduction of harmful pests and foreign animal disease from entering the United States. The passage of this bill is a victory for the nearly one dozen governors and over 150 agriculture and trade stakeholders across the country that supported it.

“I thank my colleagues, Homeland Security Committee Chairman Thompson, Agriculture Committee Chairman Peterson and Senator Peters for their help in ensuring passage of this critical legislation,” said Congressman Vela. He added, “Agriculture Inspectors, Technicians, and Canine Teams are critical in the protection and growth of our trade and agricultural sectors.  Texas farms alone sold $24.9 billion in agricultural products in 2017, but those economic gains are threatened when our international ports of entry do not have the resources to mitigate pest and disease threats, like African Swine Fever. I am honored to have introduced the Protecting America’s Food and Agriculture Act of 2019 in the House of Representatives, with support from both sides of the aisle, and to have worked in partnership with Senator Peters to ensure this legislation gets signed into law,” stated Congressman Vela.

The role the agricultural industry plays in national security is critical as Chairman Bennie Thompson of The Homeland Security Committee points out.

“The agricultural industry is an indispensable sector of our national economy” Chairman Thompson said. “Robust staffing within U.S. Customs and Border Protection to protect the U.S. food supply is essential.  This bill will help ensure that we have enough agriculture inspectors in place to perform the critical mission of keeping our citizens – and the agriculture industry – secure.  I commend my counterpart in the Senate, Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee Ranking Member Gary Peters, and my House colleague Congressman Filemon Vela for their leadership on this timely effort.”

Chairman Colin Peterson acknowledged his appreciation for Congressman Vela and his work on the issue of protecting the American agriculture industry.  

“I’m proud of the work that Rep. Vela has done on this legislation and want to thank him for spearheading this. I’ve long raised the issue of staffing levels at the border. It is critical that we have enough CBP agriculture inspectors, specialists and canine teams to protect our rural communities and our economy from foreign animal and plant pests and diseases,” said Chairman Peterson. “I represent a border district, where agriculture is a top industry, and The Protecting America’s Food & Agriculture Act authorizes the crucial resources to help protect districts like mine.  Rural America can’t afford another disaster and we need to do everything we can to prevent these pests and diseases from impacting our farm and rural economies.”

Watch my floor remarks here.